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LONDON SUBWAY STIRS TROUBLE BY BANNING `MACBETH’ AD

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One of Shakespeare's best-known plays has returned to the limelight with the three witches of "Macbeth" brewing some new toil and trouble.

The London subway system banned a poster advertising the English Shakespeare Company's traveling production of the play, sparking protests of censorship.London Transport Advertising said it rejected the poster, featuring a 16th-century drawing of three naked crones in provocative poses, because of "a high probability the advertisement would attract offensive graffiti."

But the English Shakespeare Company said the ad had not been subject to graffiti or caused offense in other cities on its international tour that began last fall.

Theater spokeswoman Sally Homer said the ban reflects a "hidden agenda" not to publicize "a powerful image of powerful women," although London subways, she said, are rife with advertisements "exploitative" of women.

London Transport denied charge of censorship, saying "the reason is very straightforward - (graffiti) threatened to deface" the posters as well as offend the public and reflect badly on the theater."